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Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jn. 6:1-15

What do we know about the young boy in today’s Gospel? Very little! He was probably a peasant lad who lived in one of the villages on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He happened to have with him five barley loaves and two fish which his Mum had asked him to buy for their meal. Little did he know that for centuries to come, whenever this event related by the four evangelists was recalled, he would be mentioned.

Did he perhaps overhear the conversation that Jesus had with His Apostle Philip about feeding this large crowd that had followed them? Philip replied that the idea of trying to feed such a large crowd was impractical. Was Jesus testing Philip’s memory? Obviously, Philip had forgotten what Jesus had done to the water at the wedding reception at Cana when He had turned six large jars of water into the finest wine? Could He not multiply the bread and fishes of this young boy?

Andrew told Jesus about the lad who had this food with him, but quickly added lest he sound ridiculous, “But what good is that for so many?” Surprisingly, Jesus was pleased with the offer of the loaves and fishes. He accepted the gift and proceeded to use it to feed 5,000 people.

What lesson can we draw from this lad? So many people think of themselves as being insignificant. They are dwarfed by the magnitude of the crowd and oppressed by the complexity of life. What can the individual do that would make him or her different from another? We would like to think that we have some little contribution to make; we have something special or unique about ourselves. The experience of this young lad speaks to that very real human need in each of us.

He reminds us of the uniqueness of the individual. Probably from all outward appearances he was much the same as the other boys – dishevelled hair and wearing sandals on his dusty feet. However, there was something different, because was the only person in that crowd who had brought some provisions. We must not forget that there is something distinctive about every person. In some way every one of us is unique. That expression,'When God made him or her, He broke the mould', is not only true about rich and famous people.

The fact is that when God made you and me, He broke the mould! There is something distinctive and unique about every individual. You and I have a contribution to make that no one else in the world can make. If you and I fail to make it, it will not be made.

This story also reminds us of the usefulness of the individual. This little boy had very little, but he was willing to give it. He could have been selfish and determined not to hand it over. The natural tendency would have been to hold onto the food and take it home.

When God asks us to give our talents and possessions to Him, it cannot be an unreasonable request, for He is the original Giver of these talents and possessions to us. Saint James reminds us in his letter that “every worthwhile gift...comes from God.” When we are asked to give something to the cause of Christ it should not be seen as a sacrifice but a privilege. We are simply returning to God a portion of the time, talent and possessions that He first gave us.

Once we are ready to share what we have, we will be amazed at what Christ can do with the little we have to give. That young lad must have been amazed at what he saw! The little food that he had given to Jesus fed more than 5,000 people. Later in life he would have told that story many many times and some hearing it would not have believed him.

And did he go home empty-handed on that day? Surely the young lad was rewarded for his generosity and, from the baskets of leftovers, he was given more than he had presented to the Lord. What you give away, you will get back many times, for Jesus said, gifts will be given to you, pressed down and running over. Jesus is never outdone in generosity.

Lord Jesus, never let me forget that however small and unworthy my contribution to your work is, You will always appreciate it and make good use of it.

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